Police are taking lessons from the British occupation of Northern Ireland, and applying them to poor communities in Southern Ontario. This is the chilling conclusion of BASICS Kitchener-Waterloo’s research into the new PAVIS (Provincial Anti-Violence Strategy) model being deployed in Kitchener.
PAVIS supposedly focuses on crime prevention and building relationships with youth and mobilizing communities, however, it is actually about using counter-insurgency tactics to police communities in Canada.
In November, Kitchener community activist Julian Ichim attended a conference held by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)—a body which is supposed to investigate complaints about police. Yet, the main purpose of the meeting was for OIPRD to promote a community policing model based on counter-insurgency techniques. Expert speaker, Dr. Webb, claimed that this model of policing is effective in Northern Ireland.
At a conference that was supposed to ‘consult’ with the community, Ichim says “Half the delegates walked out in disgust at their voices being silenced.”
The OIPRD is an allegedly independent body from the police force. But the board doesn’t seem to have much independence: “It’s funded by the government, and one out of every two people who works there is an ex-cop,” Ichim said.
New police strategy similar to Toronto’s Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS)
Kitchener’s PAVIS is basically the same as Toronto’s Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS). This is a model of intensive police repression on targetted poor and racialized communities which has been used for the past few years in Toronto. It also resembles the model of counter-insurgency policing that Dr. Webb was referring to at the OIPRD conference.
Last year, a Toronto a police superintendent attended a Jane and Finch Crisis Support Network meeting to intimidate the community. The group’s purpose is to discuss police brutality and safety in Jane and Finch—a working-class area in Toronto and designated TAVIS area. At the meeting, the police officer verbally attacked the group’s chair, Sabrina ‘Butterfly’ Gopaul, and many community members were forced to leave the meeting visibly upset.
Similar encounters have started to occur during meetings on police brutality in Kitchener. Dianne, an activist, recounted: “We had a call-out for people to go to the Queen Street Commons [generally a safe haven for organisers] for people to talk about their experience with police brutality. The Police came right in, tried to chat people up, and took our fliers.”
March Against Police Brutality
Kitchener-Waterloo is not taking PAVIS laying down: fighting back is the priority for this year’s annual day against police brutality.
Joey, a coordinator of the March Against Police Brutality, said, “Our focus this year is to release a People’s Report in response to the OIPRD report.”
The people’s report will be a consultation not run by OIPRD police sympathizers. The community is also planning a protest on March 15—the 16th annual International Day Against Police Brutality.
“Our main mission is to raise awareness of how much police brutality there is and how very little is done about it,” Dianne, one of the coordinators said.
At last year’s anti-police brutality demonstration in Kitchener, police used horses to push the crowd, including young children, off the public road.
Kitchener-Waterloo’s 3rd annual March Against Police Brutality will take place on March 15, 5pm at City Hall. All are welcome.